Friday, 17 June 2016

One Man's Opinion: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by JESSE ANDREWS


I spotted a recommendation (thanks Craig) for Me And Earl And The Dying Girl (US) a while ago and decided to buy a copy. It’s been on my shelf since and I took it down recently because I wanted something a little different to read. I guess I needed cheering up and this seemed to be the best choice available.

I’m not typical of the intended audience (in fact, I’m about as far from young adult as you can get), but I really enjoyed this tale.

There were a few hurdles to jump before I got into the swing of things, mainly in adjusting to style, time and place, but it wasn’t hard. I was soon laughing at the bumbling nightmares associated with teenage angst. Greg, the narrator and the Me of the title, is particularly fun to follow as he twists and contorts his way of being to try and fit in with everyone. He’s also terrible around women he finds attractive and his clumsiness and pratfalls around them are a treat to read about.

Greg’s forced into linking up with an old friend of his by his mum. The friend in question is Rachel and the reason she needs company is that she is dying of leukaemia. His job is to cheer her up and help her fight, but his qualifications for it are zero.

Enter Earl. Earl is Greg’s partner in the world of film-making. They put together curious pieces to entertain themselves and to pay homage to the off-the-wall films they like to watch. He joins in with the mission of helping Rachel and their efforts form the central theme of the story.

The dying girl is a crucial ingredient to the tale yet, as Greg points out, she’s not the centre piece. Greg is the main feature – he’s far too selfish to be able to remove himself from the spotlight. That’s fair enough given that he’s the narrator. It’s also important as it’s the journey towards the realisation that he’s been thinking about himself far too much in all this that provides the core of the story.

The writing is broken down into small chunks. Jesse Andrews takes frequent turn-offs from the freeway to delve into film scripts and screenplay-like dialogue. This is refreshing and engaging and provided that cheering up I was after.


I couldn’t buy into all the elements of this tale, but that’s probably because I’m on the wrong side of middle-age. With a few exceptions though, I’m glad I followed the recommendation I spotted. It’s funny, witty, sometimes moving and hit the spot I needed it to when I began.  Very pleasing.

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